Teresa Wins OEC 2012 Environmental Watchdog Award

teresa peters of granville wins OEC 2012 Environmental Achievement Award

Local green-business owner and Licking County native Teresa Peters won the 2012 Environmental Watchdog award on Saturday, November 10 at the Ohio Environmental Council’s annual Green Gala award ceremony in Columbus.

The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is a leading advocate for fresh air, clean water, and sustainable land use. The OEC has a widely respected 40-year history of innovation, pragmatism, and success. Using legislative initiatives, legal action, scientific principles, and statewide partnerships, OEC works to secure a healthier environment for Ohio's families and communities.

This special environmental achievement award was given to Ms. Peters in recognition of her successful efforts to promote eco-friendly products, information, and local food. Teresa said, “I have great respect for OEC and am deeply honored to receive this award. I will do my best to use this platform and my voice to bring these important issues to the forefront of the environmental conversation in Ohio.” See the full transcript of Ms. Peters’ remarks below.

Teresa Peters is living with metastatic breast cancer. Some people might give up hope, but not Ms. Peters, who has dedicated her life to educating others about chemical and environmental hazards to human health.

Teresa was born in Ohio and raised in Licking County. A life-long activist, she is a lawyer by training and spent 24 years living and working around the world on civil rights and socioeconomic development, including stints in Paris and Cape Town. She returned to Ohio after her cancer diagnosis in 2009 and now is actively involved in grassroots organizations that serve her local community.

In 2011, she and her partner Mike Bauer opened The Going Green Store in Granville, a general store for the modern world which provides products, information, and food to help people live healthier, eco-friendly lives. With the store as a platform, together they work to raise awareness about how things like water quality, food choices, sustainable farming, and household chemicals affect people and the planet, and host a website that keeps people abreast of local and regional issues.

Ms. Peters is also actively involved with the Licking County Concerned Citizens for Public Health & Environment, a local group working to ensure that those affected by deep shale drilling (aka “fracking”) in Licking County can be well-informed about the risks and empowered to protect themselves. She helped the group launch the website www.LCountyFracking.org. Ms. Peters also supports the Licking County Local Food Council, along with other local and national organizations working on food access, environmental protection, public health, and local economic development.

The 2012 Environmental Achievement Award Winners included:

  • PUBLIC SERVANT: Representative Robert Hagan, (D) Youngstown; and Senator Frank LaRose, (R) Akron
  • CONSERVATION ACHIEVEMENT: Rick Clark, Howland Township
  • CONSERVATION ACHIEVEMENT: Richard Moseley, Retired Chief, Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves
  • ENVIRONMENTAL WATCHDOG: Teresa Peters, Granville
  • GREEN JOBS & INNOVATION: City of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Zoo

The full transcript of Ms. Peters’ remarks at the Green Gala ceremony:

I have metastatic breast cancer; for those of you who aren’t as familiar with cancer as I am, “metastatic” means cancer that has spread. In my case, it’s in my lungs, bones, and brain, and my prognosis is not good. I’m not a “cancer survivor”; that title denotes someone has lived for five years after diagnosis, and I haven’t passed that mark yet -- but I intend to. In the meantime, I’m just a woman who is facing down cancer every day.

Cancer. That got your attention. It has a way of doing that. It certainly got my attention. Who in this room has been touched by cancer, either you have it yourself or someone close to you has it? It’s not surprising to see so many hands because now it is predicted that 1 in 2 people in our country will get cancer in their lifetime. That should get everyone’s attention.

My approach to cancer was to learn about my body and what affects it, and I’m taking every step I can to stack the odds in my favor. That means eliminating all the toxins I can and improving my diet and changing my lifestyle. And something is working because every day I live now I am defying the statistics.

Along the way, I have learned a lot on this cancer journey, and now I’m on a mission to share what I’ve learned. About risks to our water supply, our food supply, our air. About the widespread use of under-regulated chemicals in just about everything, including chemicals that are known carcinogens and hormone-disruptors. About the toxic soup we all swim in every day.

And I’ve come to feel pretty strongly that spending so much of our time and money on funding pharmaceutical cures seems to be missing part of the point. When I talk about cancer I want to talk about what is causing this epidemic, and what this toxic soup is doing to the next generation.

I’m lucky to have the resources to do things to keep myself healthy and avoid side effects from the drugs I take. For example, we have a whole-house water filter. I only eat local and organic food -- whole foods, mostly vegetables. And I have the wherewithal to learn about the toxins that I bring into my home in everyday cleaning products and body care products and take steps to limit my exposure. But many people either don’t have the resources or the capacity to do all I’ve done, or they don’t know how important it is.

A couple of weeks ago I read about how the presidential candidates eat organic food, and I thought that was great, but it made me wonder if they avoid genetically-modified foods too and I thought about how ironic that would be. President Obama won the election. Now we need to find a way to get more done on the environmental agenda. When I watched the presidential debates, I cringed every time one of the candidates talked about how great it is that US gas and oil drilling is moving our country toward energy independence, because all I could think about was fracking in Ohio and the potential catastrophic effects on our water supply here.

But environmental issues are tough, and so political. Climate change. Endangered species. These are hot button words, divisive words, that spark partisan reactions.

Cancer. Now that is a different kind of hot button word, and I wonder if there is a way we can tap that energy for the environmental movement. Health affects everyone. It makes environmental issues personal, and I think this can be a galvanizing force to bring people together to get bi-partisan support for key issues that affect us all.

For example: Effective, enforceable fracking legislation. Labeling for genetically-modified foods. Supporting local farmers with a decent farm bill so they can give us the food supply we all deserve. Regulating the uncontrolled use of chemicals. ... We can all come together on these issues when a health lens is applied.

This is what I’m working on now.

=> Through my work with The Going Green Store. My partner Mike Bauer does all the hard work to run the store, but together we are trying to show people that the products they choose can make a difference. We want to demonstrate that environmental stewardship can be business-friendly.

=> Through my work with the Licking County Concerned Citizens for Public Health & Environment, we are trying to raise awareness about fracking in our county, and are working in a bi-partisan way to include everyone. We are providing information about risks and safety in a way that can reach everyone, whether they have signed a lease or not, to make sure that no one is alienated and everyone has a place to go for information.

=> And through my writing on health.

I want to thank the OEC for this award, as well as my friend and colleague in the Concerned Citizens group, Doris Jane Conway, who nominated me for the award. I also want to thank Rachel Carlson (who wrote Silent Spring) for her groundbreaking work in this area which set the stage for so much of what I do now. I will do my best to use this platform and my voice to bring these important issues to the forefront of the environmental conversation, and I hope to work in partnership with all of you. Thank you.